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The Many Lives of Marshall Chapman

John Lennon had “Imagine,” in which he envisioned a better world. Marshall Chapman has her own “Imagine,” aptly titled “I’m a Dreamer.”

Taken from Chapman’s eighth career solo album, “Love Slave” (Margaritaville/Island, due Sept. 10), “I’m a Dreamer” captures the true essence of an artist who has been there and back over a 19-year career.

“My songs always reflect where I’m at … at that point,” Chapman said recently from her Nashville home. “It felt great to write that song, and this whole album, for that matter.

“I know I’ve changed over the years – for the better. It’s kind of like that old saying, ‘How’s life treating you?’ Someone asked me that the other day and I said, ‘The world is still the world, but I’m treating myself better.’ ”

Chapman has survived the ups and downs of a roller coaster career that began in 1977 with her debut album, “Me, I’m Feelin’ Free” (Epic), and twisted and turned with big-label pressures, rock ‘n’ roll obsessions and self-doubt.

To describe her life, the bluesy rock singer-songwriter points to a great quote from a friend.

“You know, if you live long enough, you go through changes,” Chapman said. “A friend told me, ‘These days, we don’t have to die anymore to be reincarnated.’ It’s so true, I feel like I’ve lived three lives.

“The first go-around, I was trying to be a Southern lady for my family, doing what they expected me to do. The second go-around, it wasn’t family anymore, it was rock ‘n’ roll. My role models changed to Mick Jagger and Elvis Presley. You know, that whole ’70s, sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll thing, and I did my part.”

In her third life, Chapman reached a low point: She was treated for depression and told to give up drugs and alcohol.

She’s proud to say she has been sober since December 1988, and life has looked clearer and brighter ever since. From there, she started her own label, Tall Girl (named for her 6-foot frame), and learned firsthand how to operate an independent company. Her songs have been covered by such artists as Joe Cocker, Emmylou Harris, John Hiatt, Dion, Sawyer Brown and Jimmy Buffett, who signed her to his Margaritaville label last year.

“Now it’s finally about being an artist,” Chapman said. “Doing my own albums like that gave me confidence. Going down to the post office and mailing them yourself really gives you a sense of what it takes. That really prepared me for this new life.

“I love this record. I’ve had some that I didn’t like, particularly the ones with Epic. But this is something I really believe in, and it gives me energy. I’m ready to go to the marketplace.”

BWF (before we forget): Check out Chapman on the Web @ … The Marshall Chapman album discography – “Me, I’m Feelin’ Free” (Epic, 1977); “Jaded Virgin” (1978); “Marshall” (1979); “Take It On Home” (Rounder, 1982); “Dirty Linen” (Tall Girl/Line import, 1987); “Inside Job” (Tall Girl, 1991); “It’s About Time … Recorded Live at the Tennessee State Prison for Women” (Margaritaville/Island, 1995); “Love Slave” (1996).

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